Before I had Bean, I had so many questions about what to expect throughout pregnancy and what labor would be like. Growing up, you hear everyone talk about how labor is the worst pain you will ever experience and how it’s such hard work. You hear how about how sleep deprived you will be and how you may not make it through your kids teen years without losing your sanity. It’s a wonder anyone chooses to have children.
But, it turns out I’m just as crazy as everyone else and I decided I wanted one of my own. Once I got pregnant, I immediately started googling labor and delivery experiences. I read birthing stories, watched youtube videos, and posted questions to forums to hear more about others’ experiences. I looked up complicated births, natural births, non-medicated births, epidural births, and even births from those in other countries. Nothing was off limits…because I don’t like not knowing what to expect. I’m a planner. So, I hope this is helpful for those of you who may not have had their first child yet.
I developed a birth plan after tons of research and discussed the process with my doctor. I made sure my plans weren’t too rigid so that I could anticipate and modify my expectations accordingly. Turns out, it was a good thing, because it really did not go as planned or exactly as I had hoped. Though, for the record, I am pleased with the overall outcome.
One of the first unexpected thing that popped up near the end of my term was scheduled non-stress tests (NST) two times per week. I was told they were normal appointments for all women, but later found out it was due to the fact I was overweight. Right at 38 weeks, I was scheduled for both my NST and my OBGYN appointment on the same day. At the NST, my blood pressure was elevated and they had to re-take it near the end of the NST to verify I was okay. It had returned to normal and they released me to go attend my regular OBGYN appointment. Once I got there, my blood pressure had elevated again and I was promptly returned to the hospital to take some additional lab work as everything else seemed to be normal. I remember asking my doctor what to expect, to which he replied I would probably have some blood drawn and sent on my way.
Fast forward to 5pm that evening, and I am admitted to the hospital. I had been diagnosed with preeclampsia and my liver and kidneys weren’t too happy about it. I was told to have my husband go home and get my things because I was going to be having a baby. Not part of the plan.
So, I was assigned a room and was given both antibiotics (yay for strep b positive) and pitocin. Though my plans had already changed, I thought I would still see how far I could go without pain management (i.e. epidural), though I had heard that pitocin was a devil of a drug. It turned out that the early stages of labor weren’t all that bad at all, with exception to my back. I had been having killer back pain since about the second trimester due to the widening of my pelvis and, as I found out about 4 months postpartum, arthritis in my lower back.
I tried to do everything I could think of to get my baby to drop down, bouncing on a medicine ball, deep breathing exercises, walking, different positions. Nothing seemed to be progressing my labor. I was stuck at a 3 for most of the night. They continued to raise my dose of pitocin. Finally, the next morning, I started progressing a bit and had dilated to about a 4 or 5 (I cannot remember exactly), and was told I would be having my water popped to help speed things along. My blood pressure had been elevated the entire time and was not getting any better.
I was encouraged to take the epidural as they were concerned about pain making my blood pressure any higher. I declined at first, determined to see how far I could take it, but as soon as my water was popped, the contractions worsened and I very quickly dilated to a 6. My blood pressure continued to climb and I grew concerned, ultimately opting to take the epidural. I’d like to mention that at this point, contractions were still manageable, though painful, but I did not want to risk my health or that of my child’s simply to prove something to myself. The only pain that was becoming difficult to manage was my back pain as it continued to worsen and no positions seemed to alleviate it.
The epidural process was easy. I had wondered about it previously as there are tons of horror stories about epidural complications, but mine was placed in quickly and efficiently, with no pain (or if there was, I couldn’t tell it apart from the horrible back labor). Almost immediately, I could no longer feel the contractions, or my legs, for that matter. However, the epidural failed to numb any pain on the left side of my back. I was told to roll to my left to help move the medicine down, which did absolutely nothing, only to be given a bolus to help boost the effect of the drug. That seemed to help initially, but wore off on that left side of my back about 15-20 minutes later.
Contractions worsened shortly after as I started progressing quite rapidly. They continued to give me a bolus as often as they could and double checked the epidural placement to make sure it wasn’t in a poor location. Nothing helped. At this point, I’m in unimaginable pain, all localized in my left lower back. Contractions would hurt, but I felt like I could manage them, if only my back did not feel like my bones were grinding together. There was very little time in between contractions, but enough to gather my composure for the next one. However, since the back pain never lifted, I felt like I was in agony with no time to recover in between. It was awful. I remember my husband standing by the bed with a pained look on his face telling me he wished he could take it away because he had never seen me in such a state. I was shaking uncontrollably and was really focused on just trying to relax and breathe deeply, though at one point I remember letting out a short sob that I couldn’t take anymore pain and to please get the anesthesiologist back in there because my back felt like it was breaking in two.
Of course, the anesthesiologist was in a cesarean and would hopefully be out in an hour…so I was told I was shit outta luck until then. I remember the panic I felt knowing I’d have to live with this for another hour. Shortly after, the doctor checked on me and said he would be back soon and to start practicing pushing because I was fully dilated. He left me to begin the final stages with the nurse. Ten minutes later, and maybe 3-4 pushes and the nurse had to call the doctor back because the baby was already crowning. I remember my doctor being surprised at the speed with which it happened. Once he arrived, maybe 5 minutes later, he joked with me that he was almost off duty and that if I didn’t have this boy in the next 15 minutes, he would be going home and the on call doctor would deliver. (He was born 2 minutes before his shift ended, just so ya know. I make shit happen!)
It was sort of surreal, thinking back on it now, everyone was laughing and joking and having a great time…except me because I felt like I was dying. Pushing felt good because it seemed to mute the pain in my lower back while I pushed. I pushed, maybe a total of 6 or 7 times and my son was born. I was later told that I was a good pusher which it why the final stages after full dilation were only about 45 minutes total. Once my son was out, the pain lessened drastically. Though it still lingered, I was finally able to relax enough to focus on my tiny tot.
My son was beautiful (though, I’m pretty sure that’s a biased opinion as who doesn’t think their child is perfect?). The only thing I wished would have been different was that I requested he be cleaned and weighed, etc, after I had held him for his first hour of life. That was not honored as it should have been, but Lino was a champ and harassed them to hurry up with him and get him back to me. He only spent about 5 minutes out of my hands during that first hour. I remember feeling unimaginable joy and wonder that I had just birthed this little guy. It really is beyond words.
As for the rest of my stay and gory details, I had to be stitched in 2 places as I had both torn and had an episiotomy. Then I was re-stitched shortly afterward because I continued to hemorrhage. The second go around was significantly more unpleasant as the epidural had worn off. I also had to be given magnesium sulfate for 24 hours, which absolutely sucks, by the way. When you’re on that medication, there’s a whole host of terrible side effects, but it’s required to help prevent seizures following labor and delivery for those of us “lucky” enough to get preeclampsia Thankfully, the worst one for me was my inability to focus, making my field of vision to be like that of a drunk. I could manage that, no problem. My issue was that you’re restricted on how much water you can have. I went from drinking tons of water (because you’re supposed to increase your intake when you’re pregnant, and it was like 168 degrees outside), to drinking a third of an ounce…per hour. The. Absolute. Worst. I couldn’t even eat properly because my mouth was so dry it was hard to get foods down. I’m so thankful it was only 24 hours.
Despite all that nonsense, I consider my labor and delivery to be relatively uneventful and even though I can remember all the pain, vividly, it was so. completely. worth it. I would do it all over again…Actually, we plan to at some point. I hope my experience didn’t deter anyone from trying to have a family, because I regret absolutely nothing (except maybe waiting as long as I did to start my family). Having my son is the most amazing experience and I wouldn’t give that up for the world.
How was your experience different? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories. So, please comment below!